Just an hour drive from Bologna there's a place where a miracle medicine was founded, an hippogriff greet you at the entrance and where you can get married within an Esher's painting. No, I have not exaggerated with Pignoletto, it's Rocchetta Mattei, a unique castle between the hills, ideal for adults and children, that will make you stand jaw-dropping.
Cesare Mattei and his new medicine
Born in Bologna in 1809 from a rich family, Cesare Mattei was among the founders of a bank, a deputy in Parliament and close friend of the Pope. The key event which marked his life and led Rocchetta Mattei to birth is definitely his mother's death. That event produced in Cesare a deep mistrust in traditional medicine and he began to study alone an alternative medicine: electrohomeopathy.
This treatment is based on homeopathic-like granules enhanced with vegetable electricity that Mattei believed to be able to capture in his fluids. His purpose was to restore the balance between body electric charges and bring the painful part to neutral state. The success of these treatments was enormous and immediate: they were sold around the world, expecially in China and India, and he founded the first real drug multinational company, also cited by Dostoevsky in "The Brothers Karamazov".
History of the castle
In 1850 Mattei purchased the land where stood the ruins of the ancient fortress of Savignano, on which lay a castle that belonged to Matilde of Canossa. On the same year he laid the foundation stone of the castle that would have called "Rocchetta", where he settled permanently in starting from 1859 and personally followed the construction.
After Cesare's death, Rocchetta Mattei didn't live a happy time: during Second World War, it was occupied and severely damaged by German troops. Then in the 60's it became a restaurant and hotel, and closed in 1989 with the owner's death. It was reopened to public in 2015.
At the entrance of Rocchetta Mattei you are greeted by statues of lion, hippogriff (yes Harry Potter' fans, definetely him) and harpies, but Christian, pagan and astrological symbols and references are endless. Rocchetta Mattei's design is based on Copernican's planets constellation: clock tower is the center (that would be the Sun) and the halls are the planets that revolve around it.
Art and mysteries
After the entrance courtyard you meet the "90s' room", where in Mattei's plans he was expected to celebrate 90 years with 90 other people, also 90 years, but he died before, at the age of 87 (a lot for that time).
But the most surprising place is the chapel which houses Mattei's tomb: it is a miniature reproduction of Cordoba's Spanish cathedral with striped columns and a beautiful decorated ceiling.
Nothing here is what it seems, from the slanting columns to the used materials, it seems to enter into an Esher's painting. Styles alternate from room to room, passing by the representation of Alhambra's courtyard in Granada (really!), to the room in which Mattei received his patients with pentagonal ceiling and floor, as alchemists containers.
Among the thousand secrets of Rocchetta Mattei there's also a diamond, perhaps kept in one of the pyramids that make up Mattei's lab ceiling. No one knows if it's really hidden there, but if you decide to get married in Rocchetta Mattei (yes you can!), your love can be celebrated between the mysteries of a unique place.
Why visit Rocchetta Mattei
With the beautiful village of Dozza, this castle is one of my favorite day trips from Bologna. It's just one hour by car from the city centre and in the middle of Appennino hills. If you have kids they will love the mysteries and secrets of this place. If you don't you can learn more about the unique life and ideas of Cesare Mattei. Read my other recommendations about the best day trips from Bologna.
Have you been there already? What do you think about it? I'm looking forward to know your opinion
Strada Provinciale 62, 40030 Grizzana Morandi BO
Tel: 051 916845 - 051 6730311
Weekend 9:30am-1pm 3pm-5:30pm with reservation required at viviappennino.com